Arts and Culture

Each of Us Lives in the Theatre of God’s Grace

by Father Lauder

Seventh in a series

In the chapter on theologian Karl Rahner in Father Michael Paul Gallagher’s excellent book, “Faith Maps: Ten Religious Explorers from Newman to Joseph Ratzinger,” Father Gallagher makes clear that Rahner never watered down the faith so that it might appeal more to his 20th century contemporaries. Rather Rahner saw that culture had changed dramatically and that for many people Christian faith no longer spoke to their experience. The German theologian believed that a new approach to faith was necessary.

Discussing Rahner’s view, Father Gallagher writes:  “Talking about God in a merely doctrinal or ‘propositional’ sense was out of touch with what he sensed to be the hungers and needs of the age. It was not a question of watering down faith (as he has sometimes been accused of doing) but of doing justice to possible journeys of faith in a new moment of culture. That meant making each person’s inner adventure a key for making sense of God. Rahner’s approach focuses less on explicit revelation and more on awakening people to a hidden revelation happening in their everyday depths. It would be ‘anthropological’ in the sense of starting ‘from below,’ but without ever making the human a measure for the divine. His work is theological and faith-rooted, because he always interpreted this human scene ‘from above,’ reading it as the theatre of God’s grace.”

I love the expression “the theatre of God’s grace.” What it signifies is that God is actively and lovingly present in every person’s life, not only in the Christian’s life but in the lives of everyone, even the lives of atheists and agnostics. Every person’s life is an adventure in grace, a drama that involves the person but also God. Each of us lives in the theatre of God’s grace. How each of us responds to God’s loving presence in our lives leads either to our salvation or to our loss of a love relationship with God.

Occasionally I have encountered Catholics who are upset when they hear that God is lovingly present in the life of every person. This somehow seems to offend their sense of justice. I think that they are wrong to be offended and wonder if their attitude is based on a misunderstanding of our relationship with God. Their attitude may reveal a feeling that we Catholics deserve God’s love in some way that others do not deserve it. It is almost suggesting that we are the “good guys” and all others are the “bad guys.”

It is crucially important that all of us realize that God’s love for us is pure gift. Perhaps we need to be reminded that God does not love us because we are lovable, but rather we are lovable because God loves us. And we should rejoice that this love extends to everyone. A human person not loved by God is a fiction.

Rahner’s view means that people may be touched by God’s grace without even knowing it. For us to be influenced by God’s grace it is not necessary that we be aware that we are responding to God’s grace. I believe that many times we may be responding to God’s loving presence though we are not explicitly thinking of God when we perform some good action. Whenever there is a genuinely good act, whenever there is an unselfish action, that action is done because of the presence of the Holy Spirit even if the person who does the action does not think of the Holy Spirit while doing the action.

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One thought on “Each of Us Lives in the Theatre of God’s Grace

  1. Lauder’s rehashing of Rahner’s “supernatural existential” of “anonymous Christians” — the idea that grace and not the inclination to sin is inherent in man’s nature begs the question of the need of baptism, grace, the sacraments, conversion of life.

    While many people might exhibit kindness, civility, courtesty, these same people can and do lack in key areas of behaviour spiritually and morally.

    From which follows that kind, civil, courteous people can in important moral/spiritual areas whether “from prejudice or passion or bad faith, refuse and resist the impulses of actual grace … can easily persuade themselves in such matters that what they do not wish to believe is false or at least doubtful.” (Pius XII “Humani Generis”:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html

    These kind, thoughtful, civil, courteous people can and do work zealously against Christian social values in zealously promoting gay marriage, abortion and other societal evils — “Anonymous Christians”?

    In contrast to Rahner, the Catholic doctrine is that the test of a Christian life is a bona-fide conversion of life.

    Lauder in a previous column questions why the 20-40 year old demographic doesn’t go to Mass on Sunday — I think he might find his answer in this shallow Rahner/de Lubac idea that everyone somehow is in the state of grace which elimiates the need for the Church, the Mass, the Sacraments.

    Not to mention the notion of the “internal forum” which eliminates the necessity of a rightly formed Catholic conscience.

    No wonder the churches are empty.

    In fact, this Rahner/de Lubac everyone-is-in-the-state-of-grace idea was rejected in the strongest terms by Pius XII in “Humani Generis”. Rahner and de Lubac who were under censure for just these ideas after the publication of “Humani Generis” incredibly surfaced as theological advisors (periti) at Vatican II in the political wind change the occured with the election of John XXIII.